GW students will question D.C. mayoral candidates Carol Schwartz and Anthony Williams when the two face off in the first debate of the general election Wednesday at the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre.
Representatives from the College Democrats, College Republicans, The GW Hatchet and the Student Association will ask questions of the candidates during the first half of the debate, which will be broadcast live on NewsChannel 8. Two professional journalists also will be on the panel. The second half of the debate will feature questions from GW students, faculty and staff in the audience.
“What we think is exciting about this particular debate is the CRs and the CDs have a direct interest in these two candidates becoming mayor,” said Bernard Demczuk, GW’s assistant vice president for governmental relations. “And what may be more enticing . for the students is for them to see a major mayoral debate being led by student representatives which will be carried live on cable TV.”
The last mayoral debate at GW preceded the Democratic mayoral primaries. Many students, including SA President Carrie Potter, said students were not involved enough in that program.
“Our goal is to make this debate more directed toward students and GW issues, and give students more of chance to participate,” Potter said.
The first two questions from the audience are reserved for the Residence Hall Association and the Black Peoples Union. Potter said there also will be time for another 20 members of the GW community to ask questions.
Demczuk said he will check that audience members who are in line to ask questions are GW students, faculty and staff.
“This is more of a student-driven debate, where we have turned to the student leadership to drive the questioning and the impact of the debate,” Demczuk said.
“The last time, the students did not just spend time asking the candidates about their own issues,” he said. “The students were very broad in their outlook, being quite concerned about issues such as crime, women’s issues, quality of life – not just parochial issues. That shows the real sophistication of the GW students.”
Demczuk said he believes it is a tribute to both GW and its students that Williams, who as the Democratic front-runner has been notably absent from mayoral debates, has chosen to debate Republican candidate Schwartz one-on-one for the first time at GW.
“For him to come to a debate at GW with just him and Schwartz, that really shows the kind of city-wide influence GW has,” Demczuk said.
Part of the influence, Demczuk said, stems from GW students’ interest in local politics.
“It’s very refreshing,” he said. “The city needs this kind of student interest in its city-wide affairs. I’m just very impressed.”
Demczuk said that GW would be a more powerful force in the city if students registered to vote in the District instead of in their hometown. “When you’re here, this is where your bread is buttered,” Demczuk said, commending GW Votes for registering new voters. “Whatever issues you have here on campus are ultimately going to be decided by local politicians. They are not going to be decided by Congress.”
Students, faculty and staff must present a GWorld card at the door and must be seated by 7:30 to watch the debate. Seating for the general public in any open seats begins at 7:45 p.m.